American Leadership Academy – Gilbert’s junior high wrestling took home hardware on Saturday, Jan. 25, as the Eagles won the Canyon Athletic Association state title.
“I’m super proud of our kids,” said Tommy James, who coaches both the junior high and high school wrestling teams at ALA – Gilbert. “They were relentless through the whole process. We had a bullseye on our back because we won it last year.”
ALA competed with 14 other teams for the state championship, other American Leadership Academy campuses Ironwood and Queen Creek, where the tournament took place.
There were 30 wrestlers in total representing the Eagles, nine of which girls who competed against boys during the state tournament.
“It’s been amazing. Girls’ sports are on the cusp of breaking out right now,” James said. “Our boys treat the girls the same way in the room and they all work hard every day. Most of our girls haven’t lost this whole year.”
ALA was led by Jake Wood this season, who went undefeated throughout the season, and Jax Joe, who dominated at state. On the girls’ side, Arianna Anderson also went undefeated to lead the Eagles.
It’s the second straight state title for ALA – Gilbert’s junior high wrestling team in its short history. The success of the junior high team has also helped the Eagles at the high school level as kids move on to higher grades.
Competing in Division III this season for the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the ALA-Gilbert high school wrestling team is 18-2 this season and is among the favorites to win the title this season.
James said the win gave his team confidence in their ability to compete with any team in the state. But he admits achieving that level of success would have been difficult had it not been for the wrestlers starting in the school’s junior high program.
“The more state championships we win at the junior high level it means the better we will be at the high school level,” James said. “We want to be a top program in the state and we are doing it the right way by starting off young with our kids.”